Posting about the figurine collection the other day, and re-watching William Hartnell episodes, got me thinking about the way the Masters of Skaro have changed over the years. The changes in design of the Cybermen are far more obvious, but when you look at those old stories you quickly see how much the Daleks have also evolved. There are some quite significant changes, including different ranks, as well as the odd adaptation such as new pieces of equipment.
Here's the start of a new occasional series - looking at the real evolution of the Daleks over the last five decades.
1. The Hartnell Years:
The first ever Daleks to appear are uniformly silver with pale blue spheres. This design is unique to The Daleks aka The Mutants aka The Dead Planet (1963 - 64).
There is no differentiation in rank with this lot. Ian, when hiding in a Dalek casing, informs one of the aliens that he is moving the prisoners on the instructions of a ruling council. This is either a very lucky guess - or Susan / the Doctor has fed this piece of information back to him - both having been taken to the Dalek command area prior to their escape from the cells.
Things to note are the lights on the side of the dome - fully spherical - and the simple mid-section. A pair of plain wide metal bands above and below the gun / utility arm section.
The fourth episode (The Ambush) sees the first of many adaptations - a cutting device in place of the sucker on the utility arm.
There were four Daleks built for this story. Their numbers are bulked out by full-size photographic blow-ups - noticeable on DVD reviewing but not so when this was first broadcast on the old 405-line system. After filming, two props were retained, and the other pair given away for charitable purposes - on the proviso that they could be recalled by the BBC for use at a later date.
For both storytelling reasons and the practicalities of location filming, the Daleks underwent a redesign for their next story - The Dalek Invasion of Earth. From a story point of view, they were only supposed to be able to travel on the metal floors of their city in the first adventure - utilising static electricity. To get round this, energy collection dishes were added to the back of the casings. To manoeuvre the streets of London, larger wheels were required and so the base section was built up considerably - giving them a dodgem car appearance. Apt, considering that it was the smell of dodgems that first gave the Doctor and his companions the idea that they utilised static.
There are six Dalek props on show. Five of them are standard versions - still silver with pale blue spheres. The sixth prop appears in two different guises as senior Daleks.
In part two, we see a Saucer Commander (it also makes it into part three but only thanks to the reprise from the previous episode). This has a black dome, with alternate black and silver skirt sections. Saucer Commanders were probably discontinued by the Daleks due to their inability to see rebels releasing all their prisoners immediately behind them. It is noticeable that when we next see the occupants of a Saucer - in part four, when it attacks the dustcart in which Barbara and Jenny are travelling - there is no sign of this class of Dalek.
This is mainly because this particular prop has been fully painted black and is now the commandant of the mine area, and apparently leader of the whole invasion force.
One other thing to take note of in this story are the Dalek eye-stalks. For this story, apart from the two senior variations, the stalk itself is black and the eye-ball unit is silver.
Surprisingly, the next big changes in appearance don't even feature in a Dalek story. The Space Museum has a cameo of a unique Dalek design. At first glance, it is one of the ones from the very first story - but the eye-stalk is black and the eye-ball silver. It is an Invasion Dalek, but minus the bigger bumper and the collection dish. The Dalek exhibit is the last time we will see that simple metal banded mid-section until Asylum of the Daleks - or is it...?
At the conclusion of the story we see the (now standard) vertical slats round the mid-section for the very first time. Note that the eye-ball unit is still silver, and there is a black stalk. This particular Dalek will feature in the next story - The Chase - but not throughout. It appears in the scene which the Doctor and Barbara witness on the Space / Time Visualiser, and again on the deck of the Mary Celeste - but nowhere else.
Of the Daleks which make up the time-travelling execution squad, there is no visually different commander. These are all silver / blue sphere versions for the most part - with black eye--ball units. The dome lights have changed since the first two stories. They are now hemispherical. One of the Daleks has a gyroscopic motion detector in place of its sucker on the utility arm. In a couple of sequences, a pair of slat-less Aaru Movie Dalek props bulk up the numbers. They have their bases removed, however. A cardboard cut-out Dalek descends the lift shaft in the "DARDIS" at one point - and it is one of the ones from the very first story.
See if you can spot the Special Stealth Dalek - which is disguised to look like a TV Camera...
There is a new Dalek leader in episode one - referred to both as the Supreme Dalek and the Dalek Supreme at different times throughout the story. It is mostly black, although - unlike its predecessor - the mid-section between the gun and utility arm is pale blue.
One further adaptation to look out for in The Chase is the dish-like Electron Unit which one of the Daleks uses in the cave on Mechanus.
The Hartnell - Dalek era comes to a close with Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks' Master Plan. The Daleks seen in The Chase have now become the norm - including the Supreme Dalek. Photographic material is scant for these stories (I only say that the Supreme has a pale blue mid-riff because that's the colour of my figurine).
One final adaptation worth mentioning is the addition of flame guns, in place of suckers, when they burn down the jungles of Kembel.
So, the Daleks have changed in nearly every appearance so far. It is the fact that they have retained that basic malign pepper-pot shape that means their variations aren't as noticeable as the Cyberman redesigns. You'd have to be a fool to muck about with that...
Next time: the Troughton era.